European Union leaders announced Tuesday a plan to end cellphone roaming charges in the 28 member states by mid-2017, as well as limited rules for "net neutrality." File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
BRUSSELS, June 30 (UPI) -- European Union leaders announced Tuesday a deal to end mobile roaming charges in the 28 members states by 2017, as well as limited "net neutrality" in 2016.
The agreement, which comes after nearly two years of negotiations, would halt cellphone roaming costs in June 2017, following a 14-month interim period allowing service providers to charge reduced rates.
The law would also require "net neutrality" -- telecom companies treating all Internet traffic equally -- by April 2016, though with some exceptions, including countering cyberattacks and to ease the flow of traffic for the public interest.
The deal comes after the United States adopted net neutrality rules in February.
"These new rules are guided by three principles: America's broadband networks must be fast, fair and open," the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said in a statement at the time.
Analysts have criticized the EU's net neutrality rules, proposed in March, as being a diminished version of what was originally promised. One exception allows service providers to favor high-quality Internet connections so long as they do not slow overall traffic.
"This is very unclear and contradictory—the negotiators seemed to have decided they couldn't decide," Joe McNamee, executive director of the nonprofit European Digital Rights, or EDRI, told The Wall Street Journal.
The BBC quoted Marietje Schaake, a Dutch politician with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, as saying the "compromise reached now is a watered-down version of the strong ambitions of the European Parliament."
Still, ALDE President Guy Verhofstadt welcomed the end of the "great roaming rip-off."
According to the European Commission, the caps that will be implemented in the interim period will reduce roaming costs in the EU by 75 percent before going away for good in 2017.
The law requires approval from the EU parliament and European governments before going into effect.